Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comWhat a week for the Jets defense.
The largest question mark on the defense got a little larger with the injuries to Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle, two of Rex Ryan’s top four cornerbacks go to the sideline due to injuries. McDougle tore his left ACL and won’t see the field this season, and ascending starter Dee Milliner was diagnosed with a high left ankle sprain and might take the rest of the preseason off as a result.
Ryan had a stiff upper lip on Sunday when he addressed the media.
“I am not a new coach to those kinds of situations,” Ryan said. “I have had to deal with them in the past. Adversity to some is opportunity to others. We will put the best eleven out there. We will be able to play defense. We have a lot of good football players …. we will be fine.”
But what if they aren’t? Brian Costello of the New York Post writes that should the defense falter this season and Rex Ryan be fired the team’s GM should go with him.
What once was the strength of the Jets when Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie manned the position from 2010-12 has become the weakness and it could wind up costing Ryan his job if this team misses the playoffs because their secondary can’t stop a nosebleed, as Ryan likes to say.
If it does, Idzik should be shown the door with him for ignoring such a glaring weakness this offseason.
The situation was worrisome before Sunday’s injuries when the plan was to start Milliner, coming off a rough rookie season, and Dimitri Patterson, who is on the seventh team of his 10-year career and has a history of injuries.
Now it has become dire.
Dire enough to lowball an offer to free agent Asante Samuel?
As of Monday, Milliner might not even be ready for the season opener, according to the AP.
New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner has a sprained left ankle that could sideline him for a few weeks, jeopardizing his availability for the regular-season opener.
One-fourth of the team’s top four corners are in game-shape. In addition to Milliner and McDougle, Dimitri Patterson is recovering from his own injuries, some of which might or might not include second degree burns caused WR Colts receiver TY Hilton.
So, the Jets are putting their backups forward, writes Darryl Slater in the Star-Ledger.
If Milliner misses the opener, Rex Ryan might have to pair Walls or Lankster with Dimitri Patterson. Ryan has liked some things he’s seen from Walls and Lankster. But neither is a starting-caliber player. In the initial team period Sunday, Walls was on the field with Milliner, before Milliner’s injury. Lankster later joined the starters, after Milliner went down.
Time to panic? Again the AP:
Despite losing his top cornerback, coach Rex Ryan says “it’s not a panic situation.” He says the team will try several players at the position, including versatile safety Antonio Allen.
Apparently Rex Ryan does not define ‘panic situation’ as ‘moving your most athleticish-slash-veteranish safety’ into the melee, via Costello in the Post.
[Antonio] Allen was moved from safety to cornerback on Monday, and now he will start there in Saturday’s preseason game with the Bengals.
“What the heck? Let’s put him out there,” coach Rex Ryan said. “They have a pretty decent kid out there.”
A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in football, so Allen will have his hands full.
“If he can cover that kid, then he can cover them all,” Ryan said. “If he can cover that kid, then we know we’re in good shape because that guy’s about as good as it gets. I think our entire fan base would sleep a lot better.
While we’ve really liked the Jets back-half of the roster at corner heading into this season, does this move belie how Rex really feels about his secondary?
Outside the organization, many are clamoring about what the Jets should have done at cornerback this past offseason. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Alterraun Verner … yes the team had the money and the means to bring in a player of their skill, but they took a gamble on building a secondary of young guns and that plan might be impacted now by the injuries. Either way, bringing in DRC isn’t an option anymore and all the Jets can do is move forward.
We credit Ryan for his inventiveness by using the preseason time he has left to see if Antonio Allen can step up into a vastly different role. Maybe that’s why he’s soaking up those reps now in front of players like Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster or Ras-I Dowling. Rex knows what he has there, but allowing Allen to be the secondary’s “sixth man” might provide scheme versatility that we can’t even comprehend yet.
Rex has crowed about his depth at safety and of the group of safeties the team has, Allen is by far the best equipped to jump into the corner rotation.
Bent wrote about Allen earlier this week in a must-read on the secondary.
I’m not completely sold on Allen as a safety or in zone coverages, but where he shows fantastic potential is in man-to-man coverage. Therefore, perhaps the move to cornerback makes sense on some level, although I’d still expect it to be matchup specific due to his lack of ideal speed to matchup with speedsters on the outside (he ran a 4.58 forty at the combine)
If we know one thing about Ryan, it is that he loves employing man coverage. While Allen might not have a lot of history there, the former Gamecock is strong, functionally fast (though not timed forty fast) and has that physical oomph! that Ryan loves.
In many ways, AJ Green would be the perfect test of Ryan’s A² gamble. This week against one of the league’s best and biggest, but never the league’s fastest receiver.
At 6’4″ and over 210 pounds, Green is functionally fast for his size. He ran a 4.5 second 40 yard dash during the 2011 NFL Combine.
That matches up well for Allen, who is also large and strong with some functional speed. We fully expect that if Allen were to play corner during regular season, he would get a lot of help over the top. But Ryan might want to see how far he can push Allen against the apex-player of the perfect matchup for Allen.
The point being, if Allen is pressed into corner service for a while, he won’t be playing A.J. Greens every week and so Rex will know just how much coverage help he’ll need to dial up for Allen in a worst-case scenario.
To us, moving Allen to the outside is like when Ryan set up his “Trufant Island” on Wes Welker two years ago; it is an unexpected wrinkle that is just crazy enough that it could work.
We’ve written for months about our approval of the Jets depth at cornerback. The rash of injuries in the secondary this summer is not remotely a scenario that we envisioned playing out a month from the Jets season, but one way or another we are going to find out how good (or bad) they truly are.
The secondary has always been an important element to Rex’s defense, but it is not as if Rex isn’t used to working with an undermanned unit. In Rex’s first year with the team, Jim Leonhard and Lito Sheppard were starters in his scheme. Eric Smith was a starter later on. He’s done it before and he can do it again.
The big difference will be the players that are ahead of the secondary. They know now, more than ever that their job is to provide as much suppressing fire as they can for their littler brethren behind them.
It might not always be pretty until the Jets secondary gets hale and healthy again, but we think that the Jets will be able to muddle through until then.